I was "due" with Park on May 19th of 2008. For 2 months preceding that date, I was so sure I was going to deliver early as I had timed practice contractions for hours on end many many days. Since this was my first baby, I didn't know at times whether or not what I was feeling were actually Braxton Hicks contractions. For those of you who know, they can sometimes get uncomfortable and tiring. Since they would sometimes occur every 4-5 minutes for 3 hours a night, I kept thinking to myself that maybe I was going into labor. But I wasn't. And every day that I went past my "due date" was challenging. I felt I was more than ready. I was uncomfortable and tired from the lack of sleep. In addition, my pubic bone caused me a lot of pain, a condition called Pubic Symphysis Diastasis which added to the long, sleepless and restless days. Thinking back, I forgot how difficult that last month of pregnancy can be. You feel ready to have the baby, but you still have a month to go (something I am more than experiencing at this moment). Patience during this time truly is a virtue...
I went in to see my midwife on Thursday May 29th. She told me that although the baby and I looked good, if I didn't go into labor by the 42 week mark, they would want to induce me. I told her I was not okay with induction but she reminded me that the longer babies remain inside past their due date, the increased chance of complications. I then reminded her that no one knew EXACTLY when I conceived and that I would do everything I could to naturally start my labor (as if i hadn't tried everything already). Oh and by the way, the attempts at a natural induction included:
- Red Rasberry Leaf Tea
- spicy food
- lots of activity
- Castor Oil (twice)
I very much wanted a natural birth with Park. I read up on Hypnobirthing, practiced it daily and learned all about the natural process of a real birth. The thought of a needle in my spine scared me 10 times more than pushing a baby out without a pain reliever. The thought of a C-section scared and still scares the HELL out of me. I did everything possible to avoid that and since my pregnancy was healthy, I did not need to worry about any problems. With that being said, I also went into my pregnancy trusting my instincts and knowing that if the situation shown itself during labor and I felt I needed to make a change to my birth plan, that I wouldn't beat myself up over it. I was in good hands with my midwife, and I trusted her to aid me in my decisions. If she felt that either baby or I were in trouble and a change in our course was important, I would be okay with that.
So, I wasn't going into labor because, besides that baby wasn't ready to come out, Park was not putting any pressure on my cervix. He was high in my uterus, and I was never going to begin labor is he wasn't in position. So I thought to myself, let's get him down and in the right position!
That afternoon and evening I hopped up and down our stairs inside our home. I hopped, or bounced, not too vigorously but enough to make an impact. I must have looked like a goofball, but I was determined to not be induced. The next day, May 30th, my true labor began at noon. I like to think it was my bouncing around the house that began the onset of my labor but I will never really know.
It was interesting how I realized my labor had arrived. I was having the usual Braxton Hicks that I so often had, but they turned into longer and stronger contractions. The process took some time, the beginning of labor is so NOT what you see in the movies. Not typically anyways. My water didn't break, I didn't clutch my stomach and scream in agony. I was going about my daily routine and followed my body's lead. I remember my mother telling me to stay home for as long as I could, vacuum, clean, do whatever to avoid going to the hospital too early. So I relaxed. I breathed deep and meditated on the long road ahead. I made my phone calls to family, to those coming to pick up our doggies, and to my husband of course. I told Marshall to finish his work and come home once he was in a good place. I knew it would be a long day. I spent the first 4 hours alone, rocking in my chair and making last minute preparations. I cleaned too. My house was spotless! No one wants to come home to a messy home with a new baby in hand.
By about 5:30, my contractions were about 4 minutes apart and lasting longer and longer. They were also getting quite uncomfortable. It was necessary to breathe through each one and rest and relax my body on my husband or in another comfortable position. I began moaning through the pain, and cried a little at the shock of it all. By 6:30, the contractions were 3.5 minutes apart so we decided it was time to head to the hospital. I was so sure that it was time to go, that I had made a lot of progress and that I was going to deliver soon.
Boy was I wrong!
When we arrived, the nurse had to check me to be sure I was in labor and dilated far enough to be allowed to stay. Apparently, if you aren't dilated to at least 3 centimeters and don't want any drugs, they send you back home. And I wasn't. I hadn't even made any progress since weeks before. I was still barely dilated 1 centimeter. BUT, when hooked up to the monitor (which by the way is so painful having to lie there for 30 minutes during labor and I think completely unnecessary for that amount of time) it showed my contractions were very close and lasting very long. With 25 minutes remaining on the nurse's shift, she looked at me with annoyance and without sympathy and said well if you aren't wanting any pitocin or an epidural then you can't stay here. I was scared. And I disappointed with the way I was being treated for not wanting drugs.
I called my midwife and waited to hear back from her. I told the nurse that there was no way I could get back into my car. Within a few minutes, I got my midwife on the phone and she told me to stay put. I waited and luckily, my midwife appeared quickly. She watched me and told me I need not worry, I didn't need to go anywhere. So I remained and tried to get comfortable.
I labored in the hospital for another 7 hours. I spent a lot of time in their tub, on the toilet, and walking around the room. It's interesting in looking back how quickly 7 hours were spent. I must have been in the tub for 5 of them! But no matter how long I labored, no matter how long and close together my contractions were during all those hours, my cervix had not dilated. Not at all. And so at 1:00 am, I gave up on part of my birth plan. I told my husband and my midwife that I simply couldn't labor any further. I wanted the epidural. I DEMANDED it...which is probably quite common:)
By 1:30 in the morning, I was administered the epidural and felt immediate relief. I was able to relax, and knew that it was only a matter of time that I would be united with Park. Although I felt a little saddened that I gave up on myself, I knew I had reached my limit and with the opportunity to change the situation...I took it.
My midwife checked me one last time before she was going to let me rest. When she did, she looked at me inquisitively and asked me if I had ever had a procedure done on my cervix. I told her that many years ago, I had a biopsy done on the end of my cervix which resulted in what I was told was the tip of my cervix literally being cut off. I told her that I bled from this procedure for an entire month. And she shook her head, saying that I had a lot of scar tissue on my cervix. So she "broke" up the scar tissue and told me that she has seen this before on other patients, that now after she broke up the tissue, I shouldn't have any more problems dilating in the future. At this point, I was shocked but very relieved that she discovered the cause for my failure to dilate. I knew during all those hours of laboring that something wasn't right. I kept feeling like my contractions were hitting a brick wall instead of causing progress. Nothing during my labor helped me relax...not the hypnobirthing techniques I practiced months in advance for, not the bath tub, the yoga/birthing ball and especially not anyone touching me. It was not as I had imagined and it was frustrating to say the least.
So in thinking that I had some time to dilate from a 1 to a 10, the nurses tucked me and my husband in for some rest. I remember the lights being dim (as asked for in my birth plan), people were quiet as they entered the room and the environment was very serene. I watched my exhausted husband fall fast asleep on the couch next to me as I lie there in excitement to meet Park. About 30 minutes later, I felt a strong pressure. I was just about to call the nurse when she brought in something in preparation for our birth. I told her that I thought it was time to have my baby and so she checked me. Low and behold, Park was there. He was ready to emerge from me and my excitement ensued. I couldn't believe the events that led up to that moment but the feeling of relief and peace with all of my decisions leading up to then was overwhelming. I knew my body and my baby were more than ready to birth. It was just that my cervix was having trouble catching up.
And so after 30 minutes of first receiving the epidural, I dilated from a 1 to a 10 and was beginning to push out my son. Park was born just a few short hours later, brought immediately to my chest and began breastfeeding like a champ. He was a strong baby, long and lean and without wrinkles. He was very alert and calm and completely satisfied as long as he was in my arms. I didn't put him down for more than a couple of minutes to get a bath, diaper change and let others hold him for days following. He was by far the most amazing thing that I had ever done in my life at that point. He was a product of the love my husband and I had for one another and the unconditional love that I felt for my son and my family was more than fathomable. I was in awe. Despite the lack of sleep and the exhaustion from laboring and all the company and everything that comes with having a baby for the first time, I couldn't put Park down and would barely allow myself to sleep. Those mothering instincts are truly amazing!
And I cannot believe that I am going to be in this place again for the second time in only a few short weeks...or sooner. I feel so blessed to be here, at this point in my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a mother to my two sons. To have them and to be able to hold them. To love them and be loved by them. Children and motherhood are truly a blessing...
The best lessons I learned from my birthing experience with Park can be summed up by two quotes:
Prepare for a no-fault birth...
If you confidently participate in all the
decisions made during your labor and delivery---
even those that were not in your birth plan---
you are likely to look upon your birth
with no blame and no regrets.
(William Sears and Martha Sears, "The Birth Book")
Leave it to a baby to turn your world upside down,
take your breath away and make you fall in love again.
With his toothless grin, your baby sets your heart on fire.
(Jan Blaustone, "The Joy of Parenthood")